Being a Team Player Can Influence Drug and Alcohol Use

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Football player

Middle and high school teens have many choices when it comes to extracurricular activities. Some will choose a team sport like basketball, volleyball, football, or softball, while others may choose more individual-type sports like track, golf, tennis, or swimming.

Either way, being an athlete can be a positive experience—it teaches the importance of cooperation and practice, and how to win and lose gracefully—and it helps keep your body healthy. A recent study reports it may also influence decisions about using drugs like cigarettes, marijuana, or alcohol—but the news is not all good.

The good news is that researchers found that students who participate in team sports or exercise regularly report much less cigarette smoking than students not involved in sports. Also, fewer student athletes used marijuana.

The bad news is that the same study showed the reverse when it comes to drinking alcohol—that student athletes were much more likely to drink alcohol than non-athletes. This may be because team sports often involve alcohol—while watching the event or celebrating afterwards. That’s why beer companies are major sponsors of pro sports teams.

Drugs and Alcohol Can Slow You Down

By now, most of us know that smoking cigarettes affects athletes’ abilities in several ways, causing problems with breathing and endurance, for example. And marijuana can compromise your balance, perception, and memory, making it hard to be physically or mentally at your best in competition.

However, as the study points out, some high school athletes don’t realize that drinking alcohol also impairs both physical and mental conditioning.

Bottom line: Your body and brain may not respond the way you need them to after you use drugs or drink alcohol.

Knowing the Facts Leads to Winning Choices

Whether you play sports or not, making healthy choices is up to you. So think about this: Are you more likely to drink or smoke if your friends do? How does being part of a team or group influence you?

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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